What IS Competitive Trail Riding?

First off-it is NOT endurance-while it does involve horses and distance, it is most definitely in no way shape or form linked to endurance. The two sports are like apples and grapefruit-both round, delicious, and good for you, but not the same.

Let me explain:

Endurance: This is about the HORSE only. It is primarily a RACE to see who can get to the finish line first. There’s more to it than that-otherwise, there’d be a lot of dead or dying horses-and there have been in some of the early years. Things have changed-mostly-and the horses are better protected by the rules now. American Endurance Ride Conference is the governing body if you are interested in further exploration of the subject.

In some respects, it is simpler than competitive trail. I know some people that do ride both. They’ll train a horse first in competitive trail to get the miles and sound mind on them, then go for the speed. It does seem to make for a more ‘sane’ horse that will take care of himself (and you) on the trail.

I’ve never tried it so I don’t know. A good many people ride just to complete and get that completion ribbon. You don’t have to finish in any particular time frame-you can walk the entire way. (I think that’s the ‘turtle’ award?)  JMHO-if you’re going to pay to get in-compete at some level. Don’t just trail ride. You could get out there any afternoon and do that. But that’s just me. What do I know?

Competitive Trail Riding (CTR)–There are several organizations out there, but the biggest one (and oldest, I think) is North American Trail Riders Conference. They all pretty much do things the same way with some variations on the theme. I’m most familiar with NATRC, so I’ll describe theirs. Just be aware that it is not the same all the time. Capture

CTR is a sport that evaluates the horse and rider as a team. You ride a defined route each day at a certain pace so that EVERY horse is tested at approximately the same rate of exertion over the same obstacles by the same set of judges. Each team will be seen multiple times during each day. The rider is also judged at the same time. There are two DIFFERENT judges-vet for the horse and horsemanship for the rider. Two score cards are kept-one for each. A baseline exam/judging is done to start the event-the horse is examined for lameness, soreness, and to mark anything that might be marked off later if not identified at this point (little boo-boos or nicks). The rider is judged on presentation to the judges and handling of the horse during the exam.

During the course of the ride, the vet and horsemanship judges will use natural obstacles to further test the trail suitability of the horses. They will stop the ride at least twice to check pulse and respiration recoveries. The vet judge will check for lameness and tack checks for rubs, while the horsemanship judge may do things like judged off-side mounts, side passing over a log, backing up an incline, or pulling brush with a rope.

In camp, the horses will be kept in pretty much the same stabling conditions. Often this will be tied to the trailers, but can be high lines or stalls if provided. Individual corrals are not allowed as some will have them, but others won’t. It skews the results. high line horse

A final checkout exam is done shortly after the final miles are completed to assess the horses’ fitness to continue, lameness, etc. Again, the riders’ will be judged on presentation to the judges, grooming, etc. Then score cards will be tallied. Ribbons will be awarded by the vet judge on horse condition, while the horsemanship judge will award placement to the riders. COMBINED awards will go to those teams with the best overall scores.

There may also be breed awards depending on sponsorship and the ride. There are levels of competition-Novice, Competitive Pleasure, and Open with Junior classes for those 12-18 year olds. Horses must be a minimum of 4 years of age to compete. Stallions can compete-with special rules. No junior may ride a stallion. Any breed of horse, ass, or mule is eligible. Shoes, barefoot, or boots are permissible. Saddles must be used.

What do I like about CTR? The naturalness of it-the judges are out there WITH the horses and riders. There is no artificality about it. No bleachers, no microphones and loudspeakers, no sponsor banners, no glitzy outfits or special tack needed. It’s just you, your horse, and a bunch of like minded people camping out and having fun. Everybody does the same thing-we have the same goal-having fun, but with the safety of everyone in mind. If something does happen, I know for a fact that the competition will go to hell as everyone available will pitch in to help the person and/or horse in need. We’re one big family-even if we’ve never seen each other before.

You don’t find that at show rings. They get cutthroat-and they’ll actually hurt or sabotage another person’s horse or their tack. Doesn’t happen at NATRC. Or if it has, I’ve never heard of it.

Okay, so we’re a lot crazy about trail riding-both kinds of distance riding. But it’s a  good kind of crazy.


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Tying That Pony

halter barnNow I’ll be honest-as if you’d know if I weren’t-I have no use for a horse that won’t stand tied or a human that caters to one that won’t. “I’ll just have to hold her because she pulls back.” Well, sister (this is almost invariably a female) get your big girl panties on and teach that pony how to have some manners and stand hitched. It’s not that hard. Well, I take that back-it can be hard on both the horse, the equipment, and the owner, but the training sure as hell isn’t complicated.

BTW-Do NOT leave a halter hanging like that. It isn’t that it is bad for the halter, but you are just ASKING for some klutzy something-like me for example-to come along and stick a foot in that thing, and go flying, ending up with sprained wrists, dislocated shoulders, and god-only-knows what else. HANG YOUR STUFF UP.  For heaven’s sake, folks. All you have to do is hang it from the ring it is already attached to! 

Why do horses set back-pull back-can’t be tied-or whatever you want to call it?

Claustrophia and that sense of being trapped. Those two phobias will set them off and they cannot help themselves. They have to break free. They are open area prey animals and they have to have a certain degree of freedom or they’re not happy. (Which is why you will only find ulcers in stalled horses.) Let’s think like a horse-I’m being asked to put my head into something that restricts my freedom to move around (the halter). My head is what some predators will go for first in order to bring me down to eat me so this is a big deal for me. They’ll grab me by the nose and behind my ears. (Where does a halter put pressure? on the nose and behind the ears). Now you want me to be even more restricted with my head fastened in such a way that I can’t move it the way I’m accustomed to doing! (The horse can no longer turn its body 360 degrees to see all the way around itself.) My fear is building-I’ve got to leave-NOW! and they pull back violently.

Many, many people will tell you to tie horses solidly to a big post or tree with heavy ropes and heavy halters and just let them fight it out. You can do that. You run the risk of having a permanently injured horse or a dead one because they can break their own necks. I’ve heard of using something like inner tubes to have the give, too. That’s a little less dangerous, but not by much. I’m not crazy about either one. In fact, I’d call them abusive.

I’ve used a soft cotton rope tied in a bowline around the girth line and run through the front legs, through the halter, up and over a high tree limb, and over to a tree with a quick release knot for my pullers and I ain’t gonna stand tied. It has the advantage of the tree limb having the natural give in it, the bowline won’t slip but it is secure, and the tree won’t leave. The student can dance, protest, and generally raise the biggest stink in the horse world, but they will go no where at all and they can’t get hurt. I don’t-however-ever leave one like this. But they do learn that standing tied will not be the end of their world.

Two things that must be learned and learned well before you start: how to do a bowline that will not tighten, and how to do a proper quick release.

THE best quick releaseThis is the BEST Quick Release knot-there are others, but this one keeps ALL of your rope on ONE side after you pull the release. The only thing the diagram doesn’t show is the ‘lock’-which is to simply pull the tail through the loop.

underhand bowlineMake sure you learn how to do the bowline correctly. You do not want it to slip.




bowlineI included two diagrams to help learn how to correctly do the know. Please practice until it is habit.  All it takes is one slip and you’ll be reaching for a knife to cut loose a choking horse. I know because somebody did that at my barn-and swore they had tied a good bowline.



Another thing is to use the devices know as ‘Tie Blocker’ or ‘The Clip’, or some people even make their own out of old snaffle bits. The principle is the same as wrapping the tie rope several wraps around a good STURDY hitch rail. (Please don’t do this to a fence rail-you’ll be chasing a horse with a fence rail slapping him in the butt.) The idea is that they get enough slack when they pull back to satisfy the urge, but remain tied. With the devices, you can adjust the tension via a screw or just tie a knot in the end of the lead so the horse cannot pull out and just leave. With the hitch rail, you start with four or so wraps, and as the horse improves, you can reduce the number of wraps needed thereby reducing the amount of resistance. It takes patience, but it does work.

Please be respectful of the horse. Being tied is not natural to the species, but it is necessary to interact with humans and for their own safety. Kindness and patience gets to the goal faster that force and fear.

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More Nastiness on the Big Lick Wars

Posted on BillyGoBoy.com PANAMA CITY BEACH (FL) – On Wednesday, April 26, 2017, the Panama City “Big Lick” Horse Show Manager Mr. Todd Fisher assaulted a CCABLAC (Citizens Against “Big Lick” Animal Cruelty) Welfare Advocate Clant M. Seay at the Frank Brown Park by telling him “You Are A Dead Man”. Mr. Seay is […]

via Panama City Beach “Big Lick” Horse Show Manager Tells CCABLAC (Citizens Campaign Against “Big Lick” Animal Cruelty) Animal Welfare Advocate “You Are A Dead Man” — Straight from the Horse’s Heart

big lick

For the record-I do not like weighted shoes, stacks, pads (unless the horse has thin soles or a medical problem that necessitates their use), chains, rattles, gag bits, elevator bits, chambons, gambons, bitting rigs, tail sets, artificial tails or extensions, bits with shanks AND jointed mouthpieces, any bit with a shank longer that 4 inches, bicycle chain mouth pieces and/or nose bands, cable nose bands and head setters, tight flash, figure 8, or crank nosebands, or any device that ‘enhances or alters a horse’s behavior or movement in an artificial manner”.  In short, if you can’t take the time to work with your horse to get the movement or behavior you have in mind-you need to go buy a dirt bike. I am serious. Nail this stuff to the barn wall and leave it there as a monument to man’s stupidity and ignorance (and sometimes just plain rotten meaness) in satisfying his own vanity and greed at the expense of these magnificient horses.

Did I hit a nerve? I hope so. I did some of these very things so don’t come jumping down my throat. Now that I know better-you bet I’ve turned into a Nazi about it. Join me-Protect the horses.

Safety and Being a Spoil Sport-This Lady and I Have A Lot In Common

It’s time for the annual reminder that horses are not dirt bikes.

via Safety and Being a Spoil Sport. — Relaxed & Forward: AnnaBlakeBlog

One of the reasons that I don’t board horses and almost completely refuse to teach is that I am a “Nazi” for safety for both horse and rider and insist on respect for the horses. Breach any of that and you will have some tart, sometimes cutting remarks made in your direction-with no apologies offered. I won’t apologize for caring about safety-yours or the horse’s. When it comes to respecting the horse, while I will demand that the horse respect my space, I will also demand that YOU respect HIS/HERS. There are no ‘stupid’, ‘dumb’, or anything horses. There are, however, inconsiderate, thick, and downright rock-headed people.

So this other writer’s blog sounded rather familar to me. She might even be on the same wavelength.

There Be Boogers Out Here


If you’ve been around horses for any appreciable length of time, you’ve dealt with something like this-the unexplainable-known only to the horse-but you’ve still got to cope with it BOOGER leap that they come up with. The height and prior warning can vary tremendously, and what follows can take on many forms-from simply standing and stamping all four feet in place with eyes bugged out to the vertical AND sideways leap combined with a 180 spin and sprint for a minimum of a half mile. (And, before you ask, yes, I’ve managed to ride and survive that maneuver. Do not ask how-I don’t know.)

Having seven horses in my pastures means that when the power company sent two MONSTER boom saw machines in to trim the tree limbs away from the lines, I got to see seven different versions of the ‘Booger’ reaction. (Can’t say that I blame them-those machines were impressive. Dually equipped wheels that are tractor sized front and back with a boom that must reach 80-90 feet, the driver sits in a cab that rotates to follow the boom. To a horse, that big noisy thing WAS a booger!)

We couldn’t decide which was more entertaining-watching the boom saw or the horses’ reaction to the intrusion. I do appreciate them giving those horses a great workout. I do have a couple of untrained mares-and got a glimpse of what I have in store for when I get them under saddle. Let’s just say it should be interesting. I hope they take care of me. I don’t bounce like I used to. Ground has gotten harder. Two more-then I am done training youngsters.